Our view of the Galile

Friday, August 10, 2018

My Favorite Grave- Re'eh 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
August 10th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 42 29th Av 5778

Parshat Re’eh
My Favorite Grave

Can you imagine a sign in a non-Orthodox, or perhaps even non- ultra-Orthodox synagogue that was advertising a field trip for an exciting fun and inspiring filled day visiting…. the graves of dead Rabbis. Do you think that it would generate a lot of enthusiasm? Do you think that everyone would run to get there really early in the morning so as not to miss the bus? How about in your shul? How many people do you think would be signing up for this one? More than for the concert, or the shul annual ball-game or picnic. I venture to say that more people might even show up for the board meeting or even to hear Donald Trump speak. (I don’t even think his supporters like to hear him speak, but I think even they would come to hear him before running around graves all day.). No I don’t think this should be billed as the can’t-miss event of the year.

Yeah, that’s one of the major differences, which I like to point out to my tourists, between American Jews and Israeli Jews. See here in Israel, as anyone who has been around on vacation would know, even if you didn’t take me as your tour-guide (shame on you!), that perhaps one of the biggest attractions of Israel and a must-do on your summer vacation is to visit the graves of great Rabbis and pray there. Go to the Meron to Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai and it is a mob scene, kind of like it used to look like 25 years ago on Lag Ba’Omer. Today, of course there are a half a million on Lag Ba’Omer. I venture to say that there are at least 100,000 visitors there over the three weeks of summer, from what I can tell. Go to the grave of Rabbi Akiva in Tiverya, or Maimonides. Swamped, is putting it mildly. Kever Rachel in Bethlehem, the cave of our Patriarchs in Chevron have also hundreds of thousands that have visited and prayed there this vacation. Then of course you have your hard-core guys that like to jeep out to the boondocks in the hills of the Galile or Golan and find the graves that are harder to get to. Some hike for days to get to these holy places. It’s pretty wild. There are some graves that are so far out you’d probably have to bury me when you get there if I tried to take my tourists there.

The amazing thing to me is however, not the amount of people but the diversity of them all. There are chasidim, lots and lots of them of course. But then you have your Sefardim, your people with knitted kipas and then you have hundreds as well, of men and women that are certainly not comfortable in their Kippa or are not dressed at all religiously. The annoying paper or satin Kippa sits awkwardly on their head, and the women keep pulling that really smelly shmatta silk scarfy thing around their bare shoulders or open necklines. Yes they are there as well. It is a chavaya of prayer for them too. This is our tradition, this is our heritage, this is a point and place that is holy and that I can feel I can connect to Hashem. I may not keep Shabbos, I may not always eat kosher, but I will not deny that my soul wants to connect to its Creator and that my summer experience wouldn’t be complete without some spiritual uplifting as well.

 It’s also a great place for the whole family to get together. To celebrate a birthday, have a reunion. Let’s meet by the cemetery, by the tomb. They have BBQ grills and picnic tables there. We can pray, bond and eat. The holy trinity of Jewish Israeli life. Yes even secular Israelis. And that my friends, is because even the most secular Israeli, has a neshoma that is more on fire more often than not, then those of you in the “other” “guldeneh medina”.

Now one of my and many of the Israelis favorite grave, or tzadik to visit is the tomb of Rebbi Meir Baal Hanes. There are both Ashkenzaic and Sefardic ones there. The Sefardim built theirs first. The Ashkenazim didn’t have money back then so they just very King Solomonically sliced the grave in half. Later on the Ashkenazim had money and built on their side. There’s a great little shuk there with all types of Judaica chatchkes. You can give some money and light some oil candles. And there are great picnic tables and lots of grills in the shaded roof. The bathrooms could use a bit of work though. They even opened up a hachnasat orchim hospitality room where you can free food and drinks. And it is packed. 

Interesting enough, although Rebbi Meir is popular today. It seems when he was around, he wasn’t necessarily as well-accepted. In fact, that I like to tell my tourists that as opposed to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who is the most quoted Tanna in the Talmud, without a chapter that doesn’t mention his name, Rebbi Meir is the most un-quoted Rabbi. See, every Mishna that doesn’t have any name attributed to someone, which is left anonymous, is Rebbi Meir. Now although we know that it is certainly a Jewish value to repeat something over in the name of the person who said it, that rule seems to have been to the side when it came to Rebbi Meir. Particularly Rebbi Meir being a descendant of converts, there should be an even greater mitzva to show extra sensitivity to him. So why leave him anonymous.

 The Talmud suggests that it is because they didn’t trust Rebbi Meir. His teacher wasn’t a great guy. He was a known heretic, name Elisha Ben Avuya, or Acheir-the other, and yet Rebbi Meir never abandoned him. They didn’t believe that he had the power to repent. That one can take the good and leave the bad. Rebbi Meir did though. Even after he died and smoke rose up from Elisha’s grave Rebbi Meir refused to budge until the smoke abated and he felt that his teacher was forgiven. So the Rabbis didn’t accept him. They even called him acheirim- the others. They couldn’t get to the depth of his thinking. They ruled that the law does not follow him whenever he would debate his colleague Rabbi Yehuda. He was “chutz la’machane” outside the camp.

Yet today he has been resurrected. I think it is perhaps fair to say that he has even become one of the greatest fund-raisers of our time. Maybe even more than Oorah, or Kupat Ha’ir despite the fact that you can win great prizes or have every Rabbi pray for 40 days for you somewhere. See the charity of Rebbi Meir Baal Hanes was the first international pushka of the Jewish people. Way before those little blue and white charity boxes from the JNF promising to plant a tree for every Bar Mitzva boy (worst gift ever…). For centuries Jews all over the world would give charity in honor of the “God of Rebbi Meir” and beseech Hashem for all of their pressing needs. They would promise to light a candle for his soul and to connect themselves to this tzadik. And their prayers were answered.

In the “frum” world today Rebbi Meir seems to have somehow become associated with finding your lost car keys and other important things like your misplaced cell-phone. I don’t know of any source that explains why he became the lost object go-to man, I assume that it is the same old pressing- need thing that was centuries ago. Just that today our lost cell-phone and car keys are the equivalent of someone starving for food, getting killed by the Cossacks or dying of the black plague; the crises of old. I can tell you that it works though, as I’m sure every frum person out there can as well.

Now why is Rebbi Meir associated with charity? Why am I writing about him this week? And what does this have to do with the Parsha? There is an incredible insight that I saw from the great 19th century Kabbalist Rabbi Yaakov Nineo, the author of the Emes L’Yaakov that explains this custom with an incredible interpretation in a verse in this week’s Torah portion and a dispute in the Talmud that surrounds it. In the middle of the great speech of Moshe, that is the entire book of Devarim, Moshe tell us

Devarim (14:1) Banim atem la’Hashem Elokeichem- We are children of Hashem
The Talmud in Kiddushin brings a debate on this verse

Kiddushin (36.) You are children of Hashem- When you are behaving like the ways of children then you are called children. When you are not behaving like children you are not called children, these are the words of Rabbi Yehudah. Rebbi Meir says R. Meir says, in either case you are called children –

He then brings verses to show that we are children even when we are foolish, children when we are not trustworthy and don’t have faith, children when we are corrupt and even children when we worship idols and abandon God entirely. In the words of the prophet Hoshea (2:1) we are children that don’t even claim to be “ami- members of My tribe” even then Hashem says Bni Kel Chai- We are the children of Living God.

The Rashba notes that although the law is generally that we don’t follow the view of Rebbi Meir in this one particular rule the law is like him. In fact there is only one other case where this happens in the myriad of debates of Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Yehuda. The reason he suggests is because in this particular law we find that the great Rabbi Akiva, who the law generally follows ruled like Rebbi Meir. Where is that?  By another great story in the Talmud.

The Talmud tells us
Bava Basra (10.) The wicked governor of Jerusalem, Turnus Rufus, once asked Rabbi Akiva
If your God loves poor people then why doesn’t he give them their livelihood?”
Rabbi Akiva answered that Hashem leaves that to us in order that we be saved from Gehenom (through the merit of giving charity).

 Turnus Rufus responded “On the contrary they will be punished for helping them it is like a King who got angry at his servant and he puts him in prison and orders not to bring him food. If one person comes and feeds and gives him to drink will the King not be angry? And aren’t you, the Jewish people, considered servants of your King?”

Rabbi Akiva answered him ”It is rather like a King that gets angry at his son and puts him in prison and orders him not to be fed and someone comes and feeds him and gives him to drink. Will the king not send this man a present? And we are considered children of Hashem as it says ‘You are children of Hashem’.

The Talmud continues with TR saying that we are only children in times when we are behaving but in the times of Rabbi Akiva when we were exiled and the Temple had been destroyed we no longer enjoy that status. Rabbi Akiva however responds that we are commanded to give charity even in times of Exile and thus he quotes verses showing that even in galut we are the children of Hashem.

Zugt the Emes L’Yaakov, so we see that the entire source and permission to give tzedaka while we are in Exile is because we rule like Rebbi Meir. We are always children of Hashem. Religious, non-religious, Shabbat violators, and Israeli flag-burners and spit-on-Israeli soldiers Meah Shearim Neturei Karta guys. Ashkenaz, Sfard, Reform Conservative. Rabbi Meir rules we are all children of Hashem. A child is always a child.  A child can always come home. A child always deserves that his brother and sister will be there for them. It is why whenever we give charity we remember the soul and ruling of Rebbi Meir. It is the merit of Rebbi Meir that can return that which is lost from us. That which we need most to fulfill our purpose in this world, to be returned to us, so that we can in turn return to our Creator, our Father.

We enter the month of Elul this Shabbos, the Bnai Yissaschar tell us that Yaakov and Esau split the months of the year amongst each other. Yaakov took Nisan, Iyar and Sivan. The months that we left Egypt until we received the Torah. Esau got the next three months, Tamuz, Av and Elul. Yaakov however fought with Esau’s angel and took back the month of Elul. It is the month when we do teshuva, when we return to Hashem as we approach the New Year and Yom Kippur in Tishrei. Prior to that battle the Torah tell us that Yaakov was fearful and he was troubled. Rashi notes
Bereshit (32:8) he was fearful he might be killed he was distressed because he might kill acheirim-others.

The Koznitzer Magid notes that when Rashi says he was fearful that he might kill “acheirim-others” he wasn’t referring to Esau or his soldiers. This wasn’t a Golda Meir I-won’t-forgive-them-for-having-us –kill-their-children moment. Esau was trying to kill him and it is a mitzva to kill those who try to kill you. Besides Rashi should have just said he was scared he would kill Esau. Rather he explains Yaakov was nervous he might kill “Acherim”- the ‘other’, none other than the soul of Rebbi Meir, who was called Acheirim, that would  descend from the converts of Esau. The battle of Yaakov was the battle for the soul of Rebbi Meir. Would he remain by Esau or come on over to our side? Would we have the month of Elul for Teshuva or would it be another month of destruction like Tamuz and Av? Would we be children of Hashem? Would we have a mitzva of tzedaka? Will we be given the opportunity for a few dollars to help our brother and “buy” our way out of our sins, and receive that gift from Hashem?

Yaakov won. Elul is ours. We can do teshuva. We can go visit the grave of this great tzadik. We can rediscover that we are always Hashem’s children. All of us that are there. We are brothers and we are sisters. We have one Father. He’s waiting for us to return. One doesn’t have to go to Tiverya to find Him. But it definitely helps. Just make sure you take the right tour guide.

Have a uplifting Shabbos and a fantastic Chodesh Elul Tov,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Oif tsedokeh iz oich do chazokeh” Charity is also a habit.

answer below at end of Email
Q. A street dating to the 2nd Temple period, that ascends from the Shiloh pool to
Robinson’s Arch was built:
A. By Herod the Great
B. By Simon the Hasmonean
C. After the days of Pontius Pilate
D. By Nehemiah


https://youtu.be/fM14vcaDXhM- Yoni Z Ayo filmed in Eilat cool!

https://youtu.be/yyUFJMm3hv8  Shmuli Unger Mach a Bracha Elka loves this song!! And now the video

https://youtu.be/feiF540ofYw - Who else remembers Nyet Nyet Chekobov song…? This is supposed to be updated version… I dunno…


Parshat Re’eh Ashkenazim and Sefardim read different Haftoras this Shabbos. We’ll talk about the sefardic reading which we will make up in a double haftorah reading in two weeks from now. This week us Ashkenazim take a break from the haftoras of consolation to read the haftora of Shabbat Rosh Chodesh. (Thank You Rabbi Spitz for your great article on this topic- check it out on ohr.edu )The particular verse of the hafotra that connects it to the Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos experience is the ending words of the haftora the vision that Yeshaya sees of the messianic time when

(66:23) And it will be every month as it is renewed and every Shabbat at its appointed time all flesh will come to bow before Hashem.
This vision of Yeshaya really incorporates the entire “big picture” of the Jewish peoples mandate on this world. We are put here to uplift the entire world. All of mankind shares these universal themes. The heavens are the throne of Hashem and the world is his foot-stool. The function of this world is to lift mankind up and bring the worlds together. Yeshaya sees the birth of the Jewish people as Hashem being our midwife. We are here to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the mother. To bring life to the world. To blow in it the spirit of Hashem. Each new month has in it the new opportunity to be born again. To put the past behind us and to embrace the new opportunities. And to start fresh and bring the redemption.
There is one really cool verse in the haftorah that I point out to my tourists regularly. They are in fact written on the Kotel. Well not actually the Kotel but if you go to Robinsons arch near the Southern wall excavations and look up by the bus in the middle of the wall you will see the words
(66:14)  U’rieesem v’sas libchem v’atzmoseichem kdeshe tifrachna- and you shall see and our hearts will rejoice and your bones like grass will sprout up.

These words, written on the wall archeologists suggest were perhaps written there after the destruction of the Temple in the third century when right before the advent Christianity in the Roman empire was accepted, the Jews were offered the opportunity potentially to begin rebuilding and someone wrote that on the wall in the hopes that we would be able to complete it. They knew their haftorah and Isaiah back then I guess. Well we have returned. Most of us that is… now we are just waiting to finish the job. Who knows? May it even be this month.

Yeshaya Hanavi Era of Prophecy (780-700 BC)- Yeshayahu was the author of his own book. It has 66 chapters and it his prophecies that make up the majority of the haftoras 15 in total. He was considered the greatest prophet since Moshe and he died (or more accurately was killed by King Menashe) at age 120 just as Moshe did.

Golden Calf  Aftermath- 1312 BC-  So Moshe gets atonement for the Jewish people. Afterwards he realizes that this Jewish sinning and idolatry problem is not going to go away. Hey, if we could do what we did right after hearing Hashem Himself on Mt. Sinai then what’s gonna happen in a couple of years from now when that is long behind us. As well, Moshe realizes that he ain’t gonna be around forever to pull off this incredible getting Hashem to let us off the hook deal. And he also recognized that Hashem was gets pretty angry and threatened to dump us. So he asks Hashem what will happen when he’s no longer around. “Show me Your Face,” Moshe requests, while the going seems good and Hashem seems to be in the right mood.
So Hashem tells Moshe that he will not be able to see His Face but he can see Him from behind. And in perhaps the most read and famous Torah reading, that we recite each fast day Hashem tells Moshe to stand in the nikrat ha’tzur- the grotto of the flint rock and He will pass before him. Moshe does so and Hashem teaches him the 13 attribuites of mercy telling Moshe that we just need to recite these words and emulate Hashem’s ways and all will be forgiven. Boom. No need for God to send come down to earth and impregnate any woman or kill his make-believe son. No just emulate his ways and recite the 13 and we’re good to go.

Now in Israel there are a few places that I talk about this story. First of all whenever I go by the multitude of churches that still desecrate this country. Which are certainly much more spiritually and Jewishly repugnant than any of the mosques that are around. After-all as Maimonides says Islam isn’t idolatry. Christianity on the other hand that denies that Hashem gave us these 13 attributes and that He will never abandon us and that had to come up with some ridiculous trinity concept certainly is. As well I also like to mention this story when we are by Rosh Hanikra and point out to my tourists what a grotto is and that there is flint all over here. not that this is the place but it’s a great place to envision it. Particularly when one closes ones eyes and listens to the sounds of the waves, which is the Kolot Mayim Rabim of the Mishbirei Yam that King David tells us the sound sounds of crashing waves of the sea are the sounds of the heavens and the greatness of Hashem.

But the last place I speak about this story, which I only recently just starts, is in Peki’in by the cave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who hid for 13 years there and sefarim suggest that this was the cave of Moshe that Hashem transported for Rabbi Shimon, who shared the soul of Moshe. He was there 13 years studying each year a different attribute and it is Rabbi Shimon that then came out and said I can save the entire world from judgement. That’s pretty cool I think. But that I only tell my really mystical tourists. And of course you guys that actually read this section of this extraaaa long E-Mail. Thanks!


What is Hitler’s least favorite month? Jewly.

Q: How do you know when the moon is going broke? A: When it's down to its last quarter.

Q: Did you hear about the great new restaurant on the moon? A: The food is excellent, but there's no atmosphere.

What do you call a moon out of orbit? A Lunatic!

Q: How does a man on a moon get his haircut? A: Eclipse it.

Q: Why wasn't the moon hungry? A: Because it was full!

Berel and Shmerel were sitting on a bench talking ... and Berel says to the Shmerel, "Which do you think is farther away ... Florida or the moon?" Berel turns and says "Hellooooooo, can you see Florida?"

In 2020 after the Israelis sent their first astronaut to the Moon, Ahmadeinajad, from Iran announced that they would be sending a man to the Sun. The engineers objected. "If you send a man to the Sun, he will burn up!" "What do you think I am, stupid?" he replied. "We'll send him at night!"

NASA had sent many shuttles to orbit the earth and attempted to include passengers of all races, colour and creed. One day, they realized they hadn't invited anyone from the clergy so they invited a priest and a rabbi to orbit the earth.
Upon their return, they were asked to go straight to the Media room to give the world their impressions of the experience.
The priest came into the room with a smile on his face. His statement was full of joy. He said, "It was totally amazing. I saw the sun rise and set. I saw the beautiful oceans. I'm truly in awe."
But the rabbi came into the room completely dishevelled. His beard was tangled, his kippot was askew and his tallis was creased. The reporters asked him whether he enjoyed the experience.
He threw his hands in the air and said, "Enjoy? Oy vay, you must be joking. How could I find time to enjoy? Every few minutes the sun was rising and setting! So it was on with the tefillin, off with the tefillinminchamaariv, mincha, maariv.... Oy Gevalt."
Answer is A– Or maybe the answer is D. See, herod built the Temple Mount and the Beit Hamikdash as well as Robinsons arch which was a staircase that went up from the road below. So Nechemia who brough the Jews back here at thebeggining of the 2nd Temple period and Shimon who expanded the Temple in the times of the Chasmonaim are definitely wrong. As there was no Temple Mount structure then, although jews definitely went down to the Shiloah pool even in the first Temle period. So seemingly the right answer is Herod. However when I posted it on my Whatsapp Tour guide group, someone pointed out that in his recent hishtalmiyot- that is the continuing ed that we tour guides need to go on a Ministry of Tourism sanctioned and led tour once a year, the told him that recent excavations show that the road was built by Pontius Pilate who lived after Herod and all the coins they found there date from only that time. That is not to say that it wasn’t there before, and I’m not sure if there are sources that show he went all the way down to the pool. So this may have been a trick question based on the new finds. But I find it hard to believe that Herod didn’t have a road there as he built the whole structure and generally didn’t do half jobs. But I think that if someone answered Pilate he could argue its correct as well based on recent finds.

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